Act I

1SCENE:Hall in country house of LORD AMERSTETH, Milchester Abbey, Dorset, England.

Dark oak, heavily wainscotted.2 Broad staircase L.C. leads to a balcony that extends across two sides of room the way to upper rooms. At head of staircase a door. Exits R. and L. from balcony. A high window R.C. at back, of clear glass under the balcony and opening to floor- above the balcony this window is of fine stained glass. A high window of clear glass just below balcony, through which the moonlight floods staircase and the balcony.

Fireplace L.I. with open fire door to library R.I. Between fireplace and staircase, an arch that leads to dining room, exterior and lower parts of house. Between door R.I. and window a tall cabinet concealing a safe Electric lights carved oak furniture and ancestral portraits where space will permit.

Clock strikes 10 as the Curtain goes up on empty stage. Electric lights on newel posts at foot of stairs and on Mantel. Lights are low. Moonlight outside.

Enter French Maid, MARIE, from door at head of stairs. She goes to C. of balcony and listens. Low whistle heard off stage up, this seems to be what she listens for. She comes quickly but stealthily, down the staircase, Pauses halfway down, looks off L. through arch.

MARIE: With the diner they are occupied.

(She goes to centre windows under the balcony opens them. Signals with handkerchief)

(Enter CRAWSHAY, a red-haired, burly chap, with smooth face and bullet head. His manner is furtive and cautious.)

CRAWSHAY: Is the crib empty?

MARIE: Sh! (She swings him behind the staircase)

(Enter GOLDBY, a pompous butler, with coffee-pot and salver, accompanied by FOOTMAN with tray set. They place them on table above fireplace. Exit FOOTMAN.)

GOLDBY (shivers): Ugh! (Sees open windows.) Who’s been opening the windows? (Turns towards windows, sees MARIE.)

MARIE: Il fait froid, Monsieur?3 I will shut ze window.

(She pretends to shut window.)

GOLDBY: Oh, it’s you, Ma’m’selle.

MARIE: Miladi tell me — zey keep zis ‘ouse so ‘ot.

GOLDBY: I might have known. Always prowling about.

MARIE: Ne comprend pas.4 Is the diner nearly finish?

GOLDBY: It should be — I did my best to catch her ladyship’s eye; but they’ll sit and listen to Mr. Raffles till all hours. He’s a masterpiece!

(Exits arch, sound of laughter)

(MARIE stands still at head of table till GOLDBY exits runs down to fire, switches off lights, then runs to window. CRAWSHAY comes on from L. and stands R. of MARIE. Note that CRAWSHAY plays this scene remaining up in window recess.)

CRAWSHAY: Lively now — w’en’s it to be — to-night?

MARIE: Yes.

CRAWSHAY: Good girl! W’ere’s the safe?

MARIE (points at cabinet): There.

CRAWSHAY: Gawd love yer, let’s ‘ave a look at it.

MARIE. That is not necessary. Madame ‘as not place the diamonds there for many nights. She takes them to her room. She wears them to-night.

CRAWSHAY: Then it’s as easy as kiss me ‘and! You’ll give us the tip?

MARIE: When Madame sleeps – ze white curtain at ze window -up – comme ça5

CRAWSHAY: Right.

MARIE: Then come to this window.

CRAWSHAY: Right.

MARIE: I shall give to you ze necklace.

CRAWSHAY: Good girl! You’ll find us at the old digs, you know, off the Fulham road.

MARIE: Bien! Bien!6

CRAWSHAY: If we dodge the ‘tecs. Gawd love yer, that ain’t difficult now they lays h’every job to this ‘ere “Cracksman.” The Amateur Cracksman he calls himself – a bloke wot works for fun. He once spoilt a job of mine in town; come in arter me and cleared out with my swag. Ah! but I seed ‘is face- An Gawd ‘elp ‘im w’en I see it again,

(Sound of voices)

MARIE: Sh!

CRAWSHAY: W’ot time? (Going to window.)

MARIE: About twelve pairhaps.

CRAWSHAY: Right.

(Exit CRAWSHAY quickly, laughing, windows)

(MARIE runs down to below fire, turns up lights in room by fire. Ladies enter in following order: 1st. MRS. VIDAL, 2nd. LADY ETHEL and LADY MELROSE arm in arm, 3rd. MISS CONRAN, 4th. GOLDBY. LADY ETHEL goes and takes cup from salver on table, GWENDOLINE does the same; they are both helped to coffee by GOLDBY who has entered from door up L. with salver containing sugar and cream. ETHEL takes sugar, offers cup to LADY MELROSE. GWENDOLINE takes her coffee and sits down at head of table.)

MRS. VIDAL: What a perfect night!

GWENDOLINE: Leave the windows open, Marie.

MARIE: Oui, Mad’moiselle.

MRS. VIDAL (turning to LADY MELROSE): I must really have a breath of air. (Goes to open windows.)

LADY MELROSE: You may smoke here if you like, dear Mrs. Vidal.

MRS. VIDAL: A thousand thanks, but I said a breath of air.

(Exit MRS. VIDAL to garden.)

ETHEL: Coffee, Auntie?·

LADY MELROSE: I will take my coffee in the drawing-room.

(GOLDBY with coffee pot, sugar basin, and milk jug, crosses above table, follows LADY MELROSE off FOOTMAN with tray and cups follows off GOLDEY, FOOTMAN crosses down to salver L. of ETHEL, gets salver from table. ETHEL goes and sits on arm of chair by fire. GWENDOLINE sitting at table.)

ETHEL: Gwen!

GWENDOLINE: Ethel!

ETHEL: Isn’t A.J. Raffles a topper?

GWENDOLINE (laughing): Mr. Raffles seems quite nice.

ETHEL: Quite nice! You know you think he’s just topping.

GWENDOLINE: I think we all admire him.

ETHEL (rises): Is that all you’ll tell a pal? (Comes to chair L. of GWENDOLINE.)

GWENDOLINE: Ethel, my dear!

ETHEL: Well, it’s all you need tell me. I have eyes.

GWENDOLINE: Ethel! my dear!

ETHEL: Harry Manders is out of the running. A.J. Raffles wins you in a canter, and he’s the right horse.

GWENDOLINE: Ethel, you are a dear, but you really mustn’t.

ETHEL: Oh yes, I must! Besides, Mr. Raffles is worth a hundred Bunnies.

GWENDOLINE: I don’t allow that. Even if I did, it takes two to make a love affair that can be mentioned.

ethel_gwenETHEL: Three, in this case.

GWENDOLINE: Three?

ETHEL: Yes. What price Mrs. Vidal?

GWENDOLINE: I wonder if anything ever escapes your notice?

ETHEL (triumphantly): Not a great lot. But you haven’t told me what you think of Mrs. Vidal.

GWENDOLINE: What do you?

ETHEL: A bit off I think. And she looks at Mr. Raffles as though she owned him. Talk about – green-eyed monsters!7 I should be sorry to have this one for an enemy.

GWENDOLINE: I should be sorrier to have her for a friend.

ETHEL: I want to know why she was invited.

(LADY MELROSE enters)

GWENDOLINE: Here’s Lady Melrose. You’d better ask her.

ETHEL: Aunt Fanny, why is Mrs. Vidal asked to Milchester? She’s simply-

LADY MELROSE: My dear child, never criticize a guest. Major Vidal is connected with us-distantly, I grant, but as long as she is only his grass widow8 we must show her some attention. She may not be one of us, my dears, but her marriage entitles her to our respect.

(Sits on armchair below fire.)

ETHEL: The reason why I cannot tell, but I don’t like you –

(MRS. VIDAL finishing cigarette outside window throws it away and enters laughing.)

Talk of the angels!9

MRS. VIDAL: A lovely moon with an ugly ring round it. Do you know I shouldn’t be surprised if there was no play to-morrow.

GWENDOLINE: No play?

ETHEL: How horrid of you!

MRS. VIDAL: Go and look at it!

ETHEL (rises): Come on, Gwen.

(Exeunt ETHEL and GWENDOLINE through window. MRS. VIDAL watches them off)

MRS. VIDAL: Dear Lady Melrose, I am so very glad to have just a moment with you alone. I’m afraid I’m going to take a great liberty.

LADY MELROSE: Indeed!

MRS. VIDAL: Yes, I wish to warn you that Mr. Raffles is really too attentive to your sweet Gwendoline.

LADY MELROSE: Indeed!

MRS. VIDAL: I know how presumptuous it is-my relation to you is so distant and only by marriage, still –

LADY MELROSE. Mr. Raffles is an old friend.

MRS. VIDAL: No one knows who he is.

LADY MELROSE: Everybody can see what he is.

MRS. VIDAL: I am not so sure of that.

LADY MELROSE: Besides, you should speak for yourself. We know all about Mr. Raffles. He is, to be sure, the younger son of a younger son,10 but the family, my dear Mrs. Vidal, is- a family. He goes everywhere, knows everybody, has everything, and is the champion cricketer of the world.

MRS. VIDAL: I have seen him in a less favourable light.

LADY MELROSE: Then I should keep the incident to myself.

MRS. VIDAL: But Gwendoline-

LADY MELROSE (turns to MRS. VIDAL, throws paper down on table): Might have done far worse – if Lord Amersteth had listened to young Manders, for example.

(LADIES seen outside window.)

ETHEL (Comes in): Aunt Fanny- Do join us, the night air is delicious!

(LADY MELROSE beckons to MRS. VIDAL, they exeunt through window to R. Enter BUNNY MANDERS L., meets ETHEL at foot of staircase. ETHEL turns, sees BUNNY.)

Hollo! deserted your post?

BUNNY: I want to see Gwen. Do help me, Lady Ethel –

ETHEL (comes down, sits deliberately in chair): Are you sure that seeing her will help you, Mr. Manders?

BUNNY (after a pause): You mean she won’t look at me now Raffles is on the scene.

ETHEL: He does get in the foreground, I’m afraid.

BUNNY: He always did.

ETHEL: It isn’t his fault either.

(GWENDOLINE appears at window R.)

We only allow him in the middle distance when he’s got to bowl or bat. Gwen isn’t the only one. We’re poor flies,11 Mr. Manders.

GWENDOLINE: Who says Gwen?

BUNNY (rises, turns to her): I do! I haven’t had a minute all day.

(ETHEL looks at them, rises, humming and exits between them through window.)

Is Lady Melrose right? Isn’t thereany hope for me?

GWENDOLINE: Auntie didn’t say-?

BUNNY: No, but she looked it, and I want to know. I may be unworthy – who isn’t? But you know how long I’ve loved you –how I’ve waited and waited. I’ve come down for your decision. The cricket’s a mere pretext so far as I’m concerned.

(Takes ring from pocket.)

There’s the ring- won’t you wear it?

GWENDOLINE (half refuses it- taking ring involuntarily): Harry, I can’t wear it now.

BUNNY: There’s somebody else?

GWENDOLINE: Nobody.

(A shout of laughter followed by “Oh, Raffles! Raffles!”)

(BUNNY listening to laughter, looks L. and then at her. LORD AMERSTETH’S voice is heard during momentary opening of dining-room door.)

(GWENDOLINE turns, quickly recovers, and forces herself to meet his gaze.)

No, nobody.

BUNNY: If it were Raffles-

GWENDOLINE: Well, what then?

BUNNY: I could understand it. He has been down here all the week – the hero of every match. I’ve only come for the Saturday’s show – to turn out and make a fool of myself all to-morrow for the sake of a kind word from you tonight. You won’t speak it. You’ve spoken them all to Raffles. I know his glamour. I was his fag at school.12 He was always the same. The most extraordinary man I ever knew. No good at work. Nothing out of the way at his other games. But he was the best slow bowler we ever turned out-13 the best and straightest chap- a plumb straight. He did some funny things, did A.J., but never a mean thing, and I loved him better than a brother. I would give him all I’ve got in the world -but I’ll never give him you.

GWENDOLINE (rises, puts back ring on table): You’d better wait till I’m yours to give.

(BUNNY watches her, takes up ring, sees CROWLEY enter, puts it in his pocket.)

(Enter LORD CROWLEY from dining-room)

CROWLEY: Oh, here you are! What d’you say to a little gamble?14

BUNNY: Oh, I think not, thanks, Crowley.

CROWLEY: Why not, my dear fellow?

BUNNY: Well, I can’t afford it, for one thing.

CROWLEY: Can’t afford it!- that’s quite unique.

BUNNY: Not in my case, I’m afraid.

CROWLEY: I thought you were so keen.

BUNNY: So I was.

CROWLEY (shrugging): Well, my dear fellow, if you couldn’t afford it you were a fool to play.

BUNNY (rises irritably): Oh, confound you, Crowley, if you talk like that, I will play you; and if you want to gamble, we will gamble.

CROWLEY: Right you are; don’t get cross about it. Piquet?15

BUNNY: And shilling points!16

CROWLEY: I say! I say! I say!

BUNNY (stiffly): Can’t you afford it?

CROWLEY: You’d better come and see.

BUNNY: Come on, my luck must change – at something.

(Exit CROWLEY following. GWENDOLINE stands looking after him with some remorse.)

(GOLDBY enters from door with salver, collects two coffee cups from table.)

RAFFLES (outside laughing): But I mean it, I assure you.

(LORD AMERSTETH enters, he is smoking a cigar.)

LORD AMERSTETH (laughing): Then, my dear Raffles, you should stand for Parliament without delay.

(RAFFLES follows LORD AMERSTETH on from dining-room.)

(ETHEL and MRS. VIDAL appear from garden.)

Your gift of sophistry would charm the House- but don’t you try it on your electorate!

ETHEL: Anyone who has seen Mr. Raffles do six inches on a plumb wicket will vote for him without respect of parties!

(LADY MELROSE appears at window.)

RAFFLES (laughs): No, but the games are exactly alike- a Government at the wicket and an Opposition in the field – as the staff of Punch discovers every year. And individual convictions are not everything, Miss Conran. The world judges us as it does a Bank of England note – by face value.

raffles-frenchMRS. VIDAL: Ah! But the Bank of England guarantees the note.

LORD AMERSTETH (laughing): The question is, can we guarantee the Bank of England against your friend the Cracksman?

LADY MELROSE: Whose friend?

LORD AMERSTETH: Mr. Raffles has been entertaining us by contending that the Amateur Cracksman is a public benefactor.

RAFFLES: I was only suggesting that what was really wanted is an Incorporated Society of Thieves, with some public spirited old forger to run it on business principles.

LADY MELROSE: Mr. Raffles, how dare you?

LORD AMERSTETH (laughs to LADY MELROSE): I told you so.

RAFFLES: Then we should have a clearing house for the exchange of plunder- where the rightful owners might recover their property at a preferential tariff.

LADY MELROSE: Really, Mr. Raffles, I do wish you wouldn’t discuss the Amateur Cracksman, (placidly) you din17 an enemy in ears who will very soon steal away my nerves.

RAFFLES: Oh, Lady Melrose!

(MRS. VIDAL draws table closer. RAFFLES rises to help her; says: “Allow me”- shuffles cards for her.)

LORD AMERSTETH: My dear lady, the Cracksman must be discussed. Not content with his season’s work in town, here he is in our own countryside, raiding our neighbours right and left; our own turn may come any night.

LADY MELROSE (touching necklace): Ah, don’t say that you expect him here!

LORD AMERSTETH: I do, and the sooner he turns up the better. I’m ready for him.

ETHEL: Who is the Cracksman? That’s what I want to know.

LORD AMERSTETH: So does Scotland Yard.

BellewRafflesEngravingRAFFLES (turning to them all): Perhaps- I can tell you

OMNES: You?

(RAFFLES gives MRS. VIDAL cards, she commences to play game of Patience.)18

RAFFLES: A myth- a phantom- an up-to-date Jack-o-Lantern19 subconsciously invented by the police –

(MRS. VIDAL looks at RAFFLES.)

Every time Scotland Yard fails to catch the perpetrator of some decently intelligent theft- it is the Cracksman.

MRS. VIDAL (looking at game of Patience): Ingenious.

(Playing Patience.)

(RAFFLES smiles.)

-If not particularly convincing.

(RAFFLES smile broadens.)

GWENDOLINE: You think there’s no such person?

RAFFLES: I think there’s the shadow of such a person who would be very glad to be half as clever as they make him out.

LORD AMERSTETH: A pretty substantial shadow, my dear fellow. My old friend Thimbleby loses his family diamonds and his reason over the head of them. They are promptly returned with a polite note hoping for his recovery, signed by the Cracksman.20

(ETHEL laughs.)

MRS. VIDAL (leans across table towards RAFFLES): Would your shadow have done that, Mr. Raffles?

RAFFLES: Why not? He’s human. He has his weak moments.

LORD AMERSTETH: And now this affair at Gray Towers.

RAFFLES: The night I came down?

LORD AMERSTETH: Our chief Constable is quite certain it’s the Cracksman.

GWENDOLINE: I wouldn’t be in your necklace, Auntie!

MRS. VIDAL (glancing at RAFFLES): It begins to look as though he were not a hundred miles away.21

ETHEL: What a joke!

LADY MELROSE: Ethel!

ETHEL (rises): Let’s all sit up and watch for him; the men armed- (acts it) -the women loading for them -(acts it)- and Mr. Raffles in charge of the side!

LORD AMERSTETH: My dear ladies, is it possible that you forget the little precautions I have made it my business to take on your behalf?

ETHEL: Of course we haven’t!

LORD AMERSTETH: Then it may interest you all to hear that I am about to set the seal on our defences. The cleverest detective they ever had in America22 is coming to me for a conference. (Looks at his watch.) I am expecting Mr. Curtis Bedford every minute.

(MRS. VIDAL watching effect of these words on RAFFLES.)

RAFFLES: Bedford! (Startled.)

OMNES: Curtis Bedford!

LORD AMERSTETH: Yes, he has been over the ground at Gray Towers, and he says he’s picked up the trail.

GWENDOLINE: Mr. Bedford! A detective!

RAFFLES: Something more, Lady Ethel. A cut above poor dear Scotland Yard.

ETHEL: It can’t be the same man! (assuming American accent.) I guess we all know Mr. Bedford. He lives quite close, and raises the most delicious peaches and vegetables, and is personally choc-a-block with American beans.23

LORD AMERSTETH: The same man, once the Sherlock Holmes of New York24 – incredible captures, colossal fees. Now, quite an exceptional specimen of that very modern type, the English country gentleman from America. Rewards can’t tempt him, but the Cracksman has. Bedford’s the man for him, Raffles, you mark my words!

RAFFLES: I look forward to meeting him, Lord Amersteth.

(Enter GOLDBY)

GOLDBY: Mr. Curtis Bedford.

(Enter BEDFORD. LORD AMERSTETH rises and shakes hand with BEDFORD.)

BEDFORD: How do you do, Lord Amersteth? (shaking hands with ladies.) My dear Lady Melrose – Miss Conran – (Crosses to ETHEL and shakes hands.) How do you do! A few peaches of my own growing! Will you please accept? She does so, saying “Thank you so much!” She then puts the peaches on the table where they remain until the end of the act.)

LORD AMERSTETH: Mrs. Vidal -Mr. Bedford –

(BEDFORD shakes hands with MRS. VIDAL.)

BEDFORD: Proud to meet you, Madam.

LORD AMERSTETH: And Mr. Raffles – Mr. Bedford – a man after your own heart.

bedford-raffles(RAFFLES goes and shakes hands with BEDFORD.)

RAFFLES: A pleasure I have long anticipated. I know your fame as a detective.

BEDFORD: Sorry for that- regret of my life that peaches and cauliflowers have not established my fame – on a new basis. Always hated that name “detective”-did it for my own pleasure entirely. Once or twice fortunate enough to guess a riddle that puzzled the police – pure sport – love of the game.

ETHEL: Of course- you can tell us who the Cracksman is, Mr. Bedford?

BEDFORD: Guess I can-ideal crook -crème de la crime -best ever- but I mean to have him all the same.

(RAFFLES bows to BEDFORD unseen by him.)

MRS. VIDAL: Mr. Raffles would have us believe he is a myth.

BEDFORD: But you don’t believe anything of the sort, Mrs. Vidal- (turns to RAFFLES): No more does Mr. Raffles?

RAFFLES: Now you’re here to protect us, Mr. Bedford, perhaps I don’t.

BEDFORD: You agree with me, sir – man of culture – education – position – not the criminal class at all?

RAFFLES: Never met the fellow.25

BEDFORD: No! Yet I guess you’re on the visiting list at half the cribs he’s cracked; he may be one of your own set, no doubt the last person on whom suspicion is likely to fall, one who finds his safety in our midst.

GWENDOLINE: Mr. Raffles!

BEDFORD (to RAFFLES): You may know him! I may know him!

MRS. VIDAL: I shouldn’t wonder if I did know him.

BEDFORD: Any one of us may, my dear Madam!

(LORD AMERSTETH comes down to BEDFORD, who takes cigar from cigar-box, LORD AMERSTETH has taken from table above fire. LORD AMERSTETH returns cigar-box to table. BEDFORD goes up to LADY MELROSE. LORD AMERSTETH gives lighted match to BEDFORD, who goes a little down centre lighting his cigar.)

RAFFLES: And if we do, you may depend upon it he’s some equally eminent exponent of one of the gentler arts. To follow crime with reasonable impunity, Lady Melrose, you simply must have some other ostensible career. The late Mr. Peace tamed animals and played the fiddle, and had the best collection of bric-a-brac in all Peckham.26

(LORD AMERSTETH with a laugh crosses to fire, back to same.)

Fill the bill in some prominent part, and you’ll never be suspected of doubling it with another of equal prominence. Why, if I were to go to Scotland Yard and give myself up as our friend the Cracksman, they’d look up my bowling analysis and show me the door for a harmless lunatic.

thesketch2OMNES (laugh).

BEDFORD: Now that’s a very interesting theory.

MRS. VIDAL: He seems to know all about it.

LADY MELROSE. He needn’t practise what he preaches.

GWENDOLINE: I don’t care if he does.

RAFFLES: Ah you see, I have friends at Court, Mr. Bedford.

BEDFORD: Chances are the Cracksman is not less popular. You know his battle-cry?

ETHEL: Victory or Wormwood Scrubs! (Laugh).

BEDFORD: The curious thing about him, Lady Ethel, is he seems the last to profit by his misdeeds. Most of his plunder is returned or disposed of in some extraordinary way.27

(Cards stop for a moment. RAFFLES devotes himself to GWENDOLINE.)

Why, he stole the famous gold cup from the British Museum, came away with it in his hat and then sent it down to Windsor as the Coronation Gift of the Criminal Classes.

(All laugh. BEDFORD looks hard at LADY MELROSE’S necklace.)

RAFFLES: No, he didn’t, did he? What an extraordinary chap!

LORD AMERSTETH: He’d endow a hospital with that necklace.28

BEDFORD: He mustn’t have the chance.

(Peers at necklace.) Lady Melrose, if you permit me to say so, what superb stones!

RAFFLES: They make one’s eyes water.

LORD AMERSTETH: You should feel the weight of them. Let Raffles handle them, my dear.

RAFFLES: Oh, don’t bother.

(ETHEL crosses back of BEDFORD, unfastening clasp gives diamonds to LADY MELROSE, she gives it to LORD AMERSTETH, who gives it to RAFFLES.)

BEDFORD: Should be glad to examine them, myself. May have to identify them – some time.

LORD AMERSTETH: I trust not.

RAFFLES (handling necklace): What a weight! beautiful!

BEDFORD: In Amsterdam or Paris, every stone could be sold separately without detection.

RAFFLES: Really?

BEDFORD: Yes, sir.

RAFFLES: By Jove! (Makes a face at BEDFORD, which BEDFORD does not see.) Oh, but it would be a crime to break it up. The Cracksman’s not such a Goth! (Turns to LADY ETHEL and gives her the necklace.)

(ETHEL fastens necklace on LADY MELROSE.)

LORD AMERSTETH: Seriously, Bedford, is there any positive clue?

BEDFORD: Guess he’s too clever to leave positive clues.

RAFFLES : Then he will never be – discovered.

BEDFORD (Bus.29 with cigar ash in ash tray on small table): Every pitcher goes to the well once too often. The Cracksman will be caught.

(MRS. VIDAL looking at BEDFORD, then to RAFFLES.)

RAFFLES: Indeed! As a purely sporting proposition I’m inclined to give odds against it. Who’s to describe him? Who can identify him? Who has ever seen him in the flesh?

(Pause. MRS. VIDAL puts cards together.)

MRS. VIDAL: I have.

BEDFORD: You don’t say!

ETHEL: How?

GWENDOLINE: When?

LORD AMERSTETH: Where?

RAFFLES (coolly): You should communicate at once with Scotland Yard.

MRS. VIDAL: I have thought seriously of it.

RAFFLES: Meanwhile, won’t you gratify our curiosity?

MRS. VIDAL (watching RAFFLES keenly): Yes. (Shuffling cards.) It was in connection with the “Great Pearl” affair on the German Lloyd Steamer between Genoa and Naples.

BEDFORD: Some years ago. I remember. There was a woman in the affair. “Cherchez la femme!”30

ETHEL: How romantic!

LORD AMERSTETH: Ethel!

MRS. VIDAL: Yes – there was a woman – but she was evidently innocent of all complicity. Two men were devoted to her – one a handsome young Prussian officer who was taking the pearl as a gift from his Emperor to the King of some cannibal Island –

(Shuffles cards on table -looks at RAFFLES).

The otherwell- the pearl was missing one day about dusk – and the other was accused of taking it. There was an English detective aboard.

BEDFORD: Mackenzie – since dead.

MRS. VIDAL: Yes, that was the name.

BEDFORD: And just as he was about to arrest him, his man sprang upon the rail and took a header into the sea.

GWENDOLINE: Not drowned?

MRS. VIDAL: No- (To RAFFLES.) Escaped.

ETHEL: Good! I’m so glad.

RAFFLES: You were right about his friends at court Mr. Bedford. What a pity he doesn’t deserve them. By the way, what was his name?

MRS. VIDAL: He called himself a Frenchman – Count Lauron de Bauderay – but he was as English as you are.

RAFFLES: Was he?

BEDFORD: Could you describe the man?

MRS. VIDAL (looking at RAFFLES): Yes.

RAFFLES: Do!

(RAFFLES does not take his eyes from MRS. VIDAL’s, she loses her confidence, becomes restless. Everybody looks at MRS. VIDAL. BEDFORD watches both keenly.)

MRS. VIDAL: It was – so long ago – he has, without doubt, changed much since then.

BEDFORD: Could you recognize him if you saw him again?

MRS. VIDAL (lowering eyes from RAFFLES who turns away his gaze in triumph): Yes.

bedford-raffles2BEDFORD: I shall give you an opportunity some day. The dearest wish of my heart is to meet the Cracksman, face to face.

RAFFLES: I hope I may be there when you do.

LADY MELROSE: I only hope it won’t be here.

MRS. VIDAL: As likely here as anywhere.

LORD AMERSTETH: What does it matter as long as your jewels are locked up in my safe every night? And the safe itself is the last place where any one would look for it.

BEDFORD: Really?

LORD AMERSTETH: Yes! I’ll show it to you.

BEDFORD: He’s going to give us all a chance, Mr. Raffles.

RAFFLES: Let’s have a look at the safe.

(LORD AMERSTETH opens outer door revealing safe.)

LORD AMERSTETH. There! another for silver in the dining room.

BEDFORD: Good!

RAFFLES: If there were such a thing as a safe safe.31

LORD AMERSTETH: But you’ve got to find this one first and when you’ve found it- (Turns handle of safe – bells ring all over the house, till he turns them off, and three red electric lamps burn over the safe.)

(Enter MARIE, GOLDBY and two FOOTMEN. At SERVANTS’ entry, all laugh.)

LORD AMERSTETH (waving them off): It’s all right, Goldby.

(ETHEL, GWENDOLINE and RAFFLES laugh as servants exeunt.)

RAFFLES: Poor old Goldby! Won’t you play us something else?

LORD AMERSTETH: We are protected from cellar to roof once the house is closed, and once that alarm is set it must ring if a door or window be forced or tampered with. I hope you approve the general scheme, Mr. Bedford? I’ve made it quite a hobby.

BEDFORD: Lord Amersteth, I can only suggest one improvement.

LORD AMERSTETH: A visit from the Cracksman?

BEDFORD: That switch should be known to yourself alone.

LORD AMERSTETH: Not trust my own household?

BEDFORD: Not always- most thefts are through collusion with someone inside- a servant- anybody. In my now – occasional – occupation – everybody is a – suspect.

MRS. VIDAL: Oh! (Laughing) I think after that I’ll say Good-night.

LORD AMERSTETH: Nothing for the safe, Mrs. Vidal?

MRS. VIDAL (plaintively): Nothing worth stealing, Lord Amersteth, except the grass widow’s mite.32

(Enter GOLDBY.)

GOLDBY: The silver, my lord.

LORD AMERSTETH: Ah, come with me, Mr. Bedford, I’ll show you what we do with the plate.

MRS. VIDAL: Good-night Mr. Bedford. I’m sure you are a great comfort to us all – even to Mr. Raffles.

BEDFORD: Good-night, Mrs. Vidal.

RAFFLES: Good-night, Mrs. Vidal.

MRS. VIDAL: I must see you –

RAFFLES: To-morrow.

MRS. VIDAL: To-night. (Goes upstairs.)

LADY MELROSE: Really, I think I shall follow Mrs. Vidal’s example.

ETHEL: So shall I, though I know I shan’t sleep a wink. I’d much rather sit up all night to hear stories of the Cracksman. (Goes to LADY MELROSE, kisses her saying) Goodnight, Aunt Fanny! Good-night! (Takes off coral necklace.)33 Do you mind handing this to Papa just to make him happy!

(RAFFLES receives coral necklace and laughs.)

Thanks awfully. Good-night. (Shakes hands with him, going upstairs, turns on landing.)

GWENDOLINE: Good-night, Aunt.

LADY MELROSE: Good-night, Gwen. (Kisses her.)

GWENDOLINE (to RAFFLES): Good-night.

RAFFLES: Have you nothing for me, Miss Conran?

GWENDOLINE: No – I’m like Mrs. Vidal.

RAFFLES (sharply): What? (Nods.) I see. Nothing you’ll trust me with.

GWENDOLINE: Mr. Raffles! I would trust you with anything – you know I would. (Forces a note of gaiety.) Although you have made me sympathize with that dreadful man.

gwen-rafflesRAFFLES: The Cracksman! I’ve a sort of sneaking sympathy with him myself – more than he deserves.

GWENDOLINE: Poor fellow! If he is all that you seem to think him- a fallen angel- I could almost find it in my heart to pray for him!

RAFFLES (impulsively and with sentiment): I wish you would.

GWENDOLINE: I will.

RAFFLES: Then he won’t trouble us to-night.

GWENDOLINE: I hope not – for his own sake as well as ours. Good-night.

RAFFLES: Good-night.

BEDFORD: Mr. Raffles! Lord Amersteth wants to show you the plate room.

RAFFLES: Good! (Shows him necklace.) I’ve something for him.

LADY MELROSE: I’ll say good-night before you go, Mr. Raffles.

RAFFLES: Don’t be uneasy, Lady Melrose.

(RAFFLES exits)

LADY MELROSE: Mr. Bedford!

BEDFORD: Yes?

LADY MELROSE: I am uneasy.

BEDFORD: I’m sorry to hear that, Lady Melrose.

LADY MELROSE (pointing to safe): I’m uneasy about that safe. Lord Amersteth believes in it; I don’t. I am supposed to deposit my necklace there when not in use. To-night I’m going to deposit the empty case.34

BEDFORD: Who knows that?

LADY MELROSE: Not a soul except my treasure of a maid.

BEDFORD: Excellent scheme for the present, Lady Melrose. Some one to suspect if anything transpires.

LADY MELROSE: Good-night.

BEDFORD: Don’t be uneasy, Lady Melrose.

LADY MELROSE:   I am so glad you approve.

BEDFORD: I do absolutely

LADY MELROSE: Good-night.

BEDFORD: Good-night, Lady Melrose.

(LADY MELROSE exits. BEDFORD picks up cards -faces audience alone.)

And Mrs. Vidal thinks she knows- (Nods to himself.)

(LORD AMERSTETH enters crosses to safe looking at coral necklace. Showing necklace, laughing): Ah!

Mr. Bedford we’ll drive over to Gray Towers in the morning and see if there’s anything fresh. Tomorrow’s match doesn’t amount to much. We’ve had the Incogs down the last two days, and we gave the Gentlemen of Dorset35 a tremendous licking at the beginning of the week. Raffles was far too good for them. But tomorrow’s village cricket pure and simple.

(MARIE coming down stairs crosses to LORD AMERSTETH with jewel case.)

Goldby’s playing, I’m playing- It’s the village eleven versus our household Brigade! Aha! The necklace! I was waiting for it. Put it in the safe, please.

(LORD AMERSTETH has safe door open, indicates to MARIE that she is to put it in she does so.)

MARIE: Oui, milor.

(Exits as she came. BEDFORD watches.)

LORD AMERSTETH: Nothing for Chancery Lane?36

BEDFORD: No nothing!

LORD AMERSTETH: Then we needn’t wait for Raffles; he doesn’t go in for jewellery. (Shuts and locks safe.) If you’ll forgive me, Mr. Bedford, I’ll turn in to read and to sleep with one eye open.

BEDFORD: Will you leave the lights to me?

LORD AMERSTETH: The lights! I forgot to tell you about them- here are the switches. The lower one turns out every light in the house.

(Turns switch by fireplace, every light goes out, leaving room lighted by moon from windows and red from fireplace.)

Ah!

BEDFORD: Now that’s a very charming effect.

(Enter CROWLEY with cards in his hand.)

CROWLEY: I say- what’s wrong with the lights?

(BEDFORD and LORD AMERSTETH laugh heartily.)

LORD AMERSTETH: Just showing them to Mr. Bedford.

CROWLEY: Oh! you’re too unique. Fiddling about with the lights when we’re playing cards. And yet you expect me not to lose your money!

(Exit LORD AMERSTETH and BEDFORD both laugh at him. LORD AMERSTETH turns another switch, lights go out in room.)

LORD AMERSTETH: You don’t mind my leaving you?

BEDFORD: Not in the least. One moment! who sets the burglar alarm?

LORD AMERSTETH: Crowley as a rule. He’s always last.

BEDFORD: Ah!

LORD AMERSTETH: Good-night.

BEDFORD: Good-night, Lord Amersteth. (Looks at alarm.)

(Enter RAFFLES.)

RAFFLES: Ah, Bedford, they’ve all deserted you?

BEDFORD: Seems like it.

RAFFLES (offers cigarette case): Smoke a “Sullivan”?

MNY1306BEDFORD (taking cigarette): Thanks.

RAFFLES: So you are going to trap the “Cracksman”?

BEDFORD: Possibly.

RAFFLES: Reward?

BEDFORD: Pleasure.

RAFFLES: Good! Art, for Art’s sake.37

BEDFORD: Sport for sport’s sake.

RAFFLES: To weave the net, spread it, and catch the man who has evaded Scotland Yard must indeed be rare sport. I can think of only one rarer-

BEDFORD: What’s that?

RAFFLES: Dodging you fellows.

BEDFORD: You don’t say!

RAFFLES: Of course I don’t. I only think.

BEDFORD: Then you’d sooner be hare than hound.

RAFFLES: My dear fellow! a million times! why not?

BEDFORD: Fear paralyses the hunted criminal just when he needs his wits most. He fears every figure, every sound, and, sooner or later, he throws himself away.

RAFFLES: The ordinary criminal may. He doesn’t count. The ordinary criminal is an indolent clown, who’ll do no work till the devil drives, and then does it so ill that a common constable of his own calibre is more than a match for him. The ordinary criminal in the same breath as the amateur cracksman!

BEDFORD: You name them in one – not I. The Cracksman’s an artist or I shouldn’t be playing for him.

RAFFLES: Then for the sake of argument, given a man who is superior to the machinery of law and detection, how can you capture him? Eliminate fear and the intelligent criminal is obviously superior to the intelligent policeman.

BEDFORD: A reasonable answer would put the intelligent policeman on the same plane as your own ordinary criminal, and not name him in the same breath with – some detectives. Now that’s why I never work with Scotland Yard. If you’ll pardon the conceit, it takes an artist to catch an artist.

RAFFLES (laughs): And you think the house is safe?

BEDFORD: Reasonably. There is only one man who could crack this crib, and at such close quarters even the Amateur couldn’t escape me!

RAFFLES: I wish he had occasion! (Sighs.) It would give us all such an opportunity of studying your methods.

BEDFORD: Ah!

RAFFLES: Ah! Well we shall see them if we are fortunate- meanwhile (laughs) I shall-

(Enter MRS. VIDAL top of stairs, disappears until BEDFORD has gone off)

-look into the card room before turning in.

BEDFORD (rises): And I’ll have a breath of air before staying up. (On his way to the window he has a look at front of safe.)

(Exits at window)

MRS. VIDAL (foot of stairs- whispers): Arthur!

RAFFLES: You!

MRS. VIDAL: I said I must see you to-night.

RAFFLES: Why “must”?

MRS. VIDAL: It is necessary for your safety.

RAFFLES: I can care for that.

MRS. VIDAL: You will -if you care for me.

RAFFLES: Have you no consideration for yourself?

MRS. VIDAL: None, now that a trick of Fate has brought us together again.

RAFFLES: As strangers. None of them dream that we have met before. Are you going to denounce me?

MRS. VIDAL (looks at him, then sits): No! No! not that!- I- I can’t do that.

RAFFLES: What then?

MRS. VIDAL: You have forgotten?

RAFFLES: Is there anything on this earth that I shouldn’t forget?

MRS. VIDAL: Yes, you shall not forget me.

(CROWLEY, smoking cigarette, walks from L. of window to R., pause outside, when C. MRS. VIDAL rises, puts her arms on RAFFLES’s shoulders.)

RAFFLES: Good God, woman! Are you as reckless of your own reputation as you are of my safety? A word, a look, at this hour. You know what they mean to the world! Think of your husband, not of me.

MRS. VIDAL: You came into my life before he did.

RAFFLES: That’s an old story that need put neither of us to the blush- as it stands.

MRS. VIDAL: But I -I have not forgotten!

RAFFLES: A chance meeting on a summer voyage – there it ended.

MRS. VIDAL (rises): It shall not end there!

RAFFLES: Is that a threat?

MRS. VIDAL: You drove me to it- ah no, no- it isn’t. (Wheedling.)

RAFFLES: It was a threat. You have been threatening to give me away all the evening, and I have dared you to betray me, but you won’t. There are obvious reasons why you are not going to give me away.

MRS. VIDAL: Name one.

RAFFLES: My will against yours.

MRS. VIDAL: I know another reason-Gwendoline Conran -(Meeting his eyes until her own fall.) What can you see in her? Suppose I say I was the woman in the Great Pearl Affair- and you the- (Hesitates.)

RAFFLES: Say it! Say it! -Who’s going to believe you! a young French diplomatic with a waxed moustache is hard to reconcile with the clean shaven English legbreak bowler! There was only one man who could substantiate your story, that’s Mackenzie, and he’s dead.38

MRS. VIDAL: But Bedford’s alive.

RAFFLES: Bedford! My dear lady! Bedford and I are like long-lost brothers. I have no fear of him – or of any other man – or woman.

MRS. VIDAL: You have no heart.

RAFFLES: No! (Looks upstairs, then turns away.)

MRS. VIDAL: You mean?

RAFFLES: What I say. You know as well as I do that I can’t afford to have a heart. I wish to God I could.

MRS. VIDAL: So that you might offer it to that fool of a girl?

vidal-rafflesRAFFLES: Yes.

MRS. VIDAL: You admit it – very well. Now listen to me, Arthur- she shall know you for what you are.

(Exit upstairs.)

RAFFLES: What would she say- what will she say when she knows- as she must know?

(Enter BUNNY, closes door, back to RAFFLES, excited, dishevelled.)

RAFFLES: Hullo, Bunny!

BUNNY: I say, A.J., can you spare me a minute?

RAFFLES: As many as you like. (Laughing) What’s the matter?

BUNNY (sits): I’m in a hole. The fact is, Crowley and I have been playing piquet.39

RAFFLES: Yes, yes! I saw.

BUNNY: Shilling points, that was my doing. I needn’t tell you why- sort of doubles or quits. Well, A.J., it’s doubles- and I couldn’t pay.

RAFFLES: Let him wait.

BUNNY: No, I won’t. I can’t stand the fellow. He said – (Reproducing sneer)- “Of course, I could call the bets off, if I liked.” That finished me and I wrote him a cheque.

RAFFLES: Then you have paid up, Bunny. Why do you talk as though you hadn’t?

BUNNY (turning away): I’m ashamed to tell you. I don’t know what you’ll think of me, A.J., you’re so straight. My cheque won’t be honoured- Account closed – nothing to re-open it in time – nothing to raise anything on!40

seattle-theatreRAFFLES: What about the Governor?41

BUNNY: He’s sworn he’ll never pay my debts again. He’s a man of his word. He’d see me do time first.

RAFFLES : How much is the cheque?

BUNNY: Over a hundred.

RAFFLES (with a surreptitious smile): A hundred and fifty?

BUNNY: All but.

RAFFLES: What a sum to send one to the devil!

BUNNY: It isn’t much, is it?

RAFFLES: Nominal, my dear Bunny- if you happen to have it- unfortunately I haven’t. I’m devilish hard up myself, or I needn’t tell you, old chap, it should be yours this minute. (Rises, patting BUNNY on the shoulder.) But don’t you worry-I’ll see you through.

BUNNY: Oh, thanks! That’s just like you, A.J. Dear old chap, I knew you would. Yet I wouldn’t have come to you-even to you- only Crowley made me so mad – I felt that rather than not pay on the spot I’d – I’d steal the money.

RAFFLES: You leave it to me. Your cheque shall be honoured.

BUNNY: Thanks old chap. Unlucky in love, unlucky at cards, but more than lucky in my friend.

RAFFLES: What was that you said about Love?

BUNNY: I’ve lost at it … and lost to you.

RAFFLES: To me?

BUNNY: Yes, you’ve as good as won her from me, A.J., as I might have known you would.

RAFFLES: What on earth are you talking about, Bunny? Who or what is it that I have won from you?

BUNNY: The only woman I’ve ever cared for.

RAFFLES: Not Miss Conran?

BUNNY: Yes, Gwendoline- I don’t blame you. I don’t blame her. You are the better man.

RAFFLES: I – the better man- God! If you only knew, Bunny, you who have known me longer and better than any others -if you only knew! A good woman’s love isn’t for the likes of me.

BUNNY: But you’re the man.

RAFFLES: I’m not- I don’t want to be.

BUNNY: She has refused me, A.J.

RAFFLES: You shall win her yet, old man.

BUNNY: It’s too late. I’ve played and -lost.

RAFFLES: But I have still to play, and I’ll win her for you.

BUNNY: Then you don’t love her?

RAFFLES (after a pause -lies): Love her! What nonsense.

BUNNY (rises): I can hardly believe you- but I want you to know that I’d go through Hell to serve you.

RAFFLES (his arm round BUNNY’S shoulder): I think you would, Bunny, and some day you may have the chance – meanwhile remember our old school motto: “Money lost, little lost. Honour lost, much lost. Pluck lost, all lost!”42 Cling to your courage, Bunny, and I’ll cling to mine.

(BEDFORD and CROWLEY come in together.)

CROWLEY: A lovely night! Quite unique! Come for a stroll, Raffles.

RAFFLES (shortly): No, thanks.

CROWLEY: All right.

(BEDFORD closes R. half window, leaves L. half open.)

CROWLEY: Oh, Mr. Bedford, don’t shut that window, and don’t you lock me out.

(Exit into garden.)

BEDFORD (coming in): Just turning in?

RAFFLES: No! worse luck- there are one or two letters I must answer.

BUNNY: I am-good-night, old chap.

RAFFLES: Buck up!

(RAFFLES exits)

BUNNY: Good-night, Mr. Bedford.

BEDFORD: Good-night, Mr. Manders.

(BEDFORD places high “saddle-back” chair43 which is above fire so that its back would hide someone from the entire room, then sits in it. The light from the fireplace falls on this chair and crosses stage to cover the door.)

(Enter MERTON.)44

MERTON: Can I do anything for you, Sir?

BEDFORD: Yes, Merton, you can go to bed.

MERTON: I’d far rather sit up, Sir, and let you go to bed.

BEDFORD: I am in bed.

MERTON (takes handcuffs from pocket): Well, you’d better have these, sir.

BEDFORD (taking them): Oh, guess I’d better. Good-night, Merton.

MERTON: Good-night, sir.

(Exits with a shrug.)

Kyrle-Bellew-Raffles(BEDFORD puts handcuffs in his coat pocket-strolls slowly to L. of table, looks round at the empty room and the moonlight at the window then goes below fire, switches off light. Amber floats45 1st batten46 and lamp out. He looks at photo on mantelpiece, takes handkerchief out of his pocket, sits in armchair again, putting the handkerchief over his face- there is a pause. RAFFLES enters cautiously, goes to foot of stairs, turns, careful not to make a noise; observes silent house and empty room, goes quickly to windows, looks outside, then turns back into room, flashes torch on alarm on staircase, and then goes to safe and flashes light on door of same. 1st whistle, other follows. He shuts off the light. A second whistle is heard. BEDFORD pulls handkerchief from his face, crouches up on seat of chair at second whistle, sits with eyes very wide open in listening attitude, otherwise does not move. RAFFLES darts silently up into dark comer above safe, stoops and crouches, close to open window R. A black figure with slouch hat and muffler appears outside of the window, stands still for a moment, then comes to bottom of staircase, As CRAWSHAY appears at window the MAID comes to top of stairs. She has the necklace in her hand. Firelight strong. She comes downstairs to the landing. CRAWSHAY enters, advances to lower edge of balcony, looks up, sees MAID. She reaches over the rail of balcony and gives him the necklace. She returns and exits. As CRAWSHAY enters, RAFFLES in a crouching position so as not to be seen, works to back of CRAWSHAY, and as CRAWSHAY is just dropping necklace into his pocket, it is snatched away from him by RAFFLES who pockets it. When CRAWSHAY turns, RAFFLES strikes him a violent blow in the face which makes him stagger back. CRAWSHAY then goes for RAFFLES, hitting out with his R. fist, which RAFFLES dodges, CRAWSHAY’S R. hand passing over RAFFLES’s L. shoulder. They struggle, getting nearer centre.)

RAFFLES (calls loudly): Lights! Lights!

(BEDFORD springs from armchair with handcuffs in his hand, he switches on lights from below fire, then goes to RAFFLES’s help. By this time RAFFLES has succeeded in throwing CRAWSHAY on to his face on the floor between table and fire.)

CROWLEY: What’s happened? What’s up? Let me help you.

raffles-your-manRAFFLES (struggling with CRAWSHAY): All right. I’ve got him, I’ve got him! There, Bedford, there’s your man.

BEDFORD (has hand-cuffed CRAWSHAY): Well caught!

RAFFLES: Not all our fancy painted him, I admit.

(CRAWSHAY recognises RAFFLES -drops his jaw.)

CRAWSHAY: Oh!

BEDFORD: Say, this is not my man.

CRAWSHAY (seeing chance, turning to BEDFORD, still on his knees): Course it aren’t, Governor. What ‘arm ‘ave I done? I never touched nothink. The window was open. I only crep’ in out o’ the cold.

BEDFORD (shaking his head): I never forget a face. Call yourself Crawshay still?

(Groan from CRAWSHAY. RAFFLES takes out necklace from pocket, looks at it, returns it to pocket, LORD AMERSTETH turns to him with hands outstretched and goes to him- after this LORD AMERSTETH goes below him to fire.)

raffles-french2LORD AMERSTETH: Search him! Search him!

BEDFORD: Here, help me, gentlemen.

GOLDBY: Shall I send for the police, my lord?

LORD AMERSTETH: At once- tell Hardy – the new motor47 – let him bring them back.

(Exit GOLDBY.)

(BEDFORD takes jemmy from CRAWSHAY and keys, throws them on table, goes back to CRAWSHAY.)

Well? (To BEDFORD who has searched CRAWSHAY.)

crawshay-rafflesBEDFORD: Nothing – guess he hadn’t time – thanks to Mr. Raffles.

CRAWSHAY: Raffles that’s your name? I shan’t forget! They can’t give me much for this -you wait- you wait!

(Makes threatening movement towards RAFFLES, is stopped by CROWLEY on his L., BEDFORD on his R. BUNNY and BEDFORD tum and hear CRAWSHAY threatening RAFFLES.)

CURTAIN.

This entry was posted in Raffles The Amateur Cracksman. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Act I

  1. Pingback: Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman | Raffles Redux

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *